ISM - Virgin Peaks of the Tien Shan - 2003

The Borkoldoy range is a limestone massif situated north of the Dankova region of the West Kokshaal-Too. Apart from British expeditions in 1995 and 2002, which operated in the NE and SW corners of the group, the range is little-explored by mountaineers.

Borkoldoy Expedition Report - 2003

In September 2003 an ISM expedition comprising Pat Littlejohn, Adrian Nelhams (guides), Tony Allen, James Bruton, Jo da Silva, Steve Kempley, Nigel Kettle, Clive McCafferty, Neil Sutcliffe and Jane Whitmore (expedition doctor) set up base camp at the head of the Kynar Valley. This long curving valley cuts deeply into the SE part of the range and on its south side is the massif dominated by Pk 5060m, a giant rocky peak taking the form of a narrow crest running N to S.

First reconnaissance was made up the canyons either side of Pk 5060m and ABC established on the W side at 4130m. From here Nelhams, Kettle, Allen & Sutcliffe traversed the fine mixed peak at the top of the canyon (Pk Mars, 4905m, AD) while Littlejohn, Bruton, da Silva and Whitmore climbed the neighbouring Pk Virgo (4744m). Nelhams’ team then attempted the fortress-like peak north of Pk Mars but were stopped by a 50m barrier of steep compact rock near the summit. The huge North Ridge of Pk 5060m was tried by Littlejohn, da Silva and Bruton. They traversed its first summit (Mramorney Cupol (Marble Dome) 4700m) but an hour beyond this they were stopped by a deep breche which would have been very difficult and time-consuming to cross. This peak remains a major and challenging objective.

The expedition then moved around to more accessible peaks on the north side of the range (two valleys west of the area explored by the 1995 British expedition) and enjoyed more success. BC was established in the Chon Tor valley which divides higher up into two glaciated valleys. The team split and moved up to ABC’s high on each glacier. From the E glacier Nelhams, Allen, Kempley, Kettle & Sutcliffe climbed the SE ridge of PE Peak (4740m, PD), rhe W ridge of Pk Obsorny (4914m, AD) and the S ridge of Gromovoy (Thunder) Pk (4840m, PD+). They came close to success on the prominent triple-summited peak forming the east side of the valley, turning back due to avalanche danger. At the head of this glacier a superb snow peak characterised by soaring corniced ridges remains unclimbed.

From the Western glacier Littlejohn, Bruton and McCafferty, with a second rope of da Silva, Whitmore and Russian companion Sasha Miyusov, climbed the SW ridge of Pk Tomos (4869m, AD) the beautifully symmetrical snow peak which dominates the glacier. Another classic summit - Shutnik (Jester) 4890m - was climbed by the N spur at PD+. Ascents were made of Scalnya Kiska (4666m) and a fine rock pillar above ABC – Snezny Chelovek (Snowman) grade V. Finally anybody with energy left joined Nelhams for the 4542m peak above base camp, a stunning viewpoint in perfect weather.

ISM plans another expedition to this inspiring area in 2004.

Pat Littlejohn

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